©1997 by Michael Ruhlman; (P)1998 by Blackstone Audiobooks
One would think this book would be more interesting. The world of the student chef is complex and intricate, with many idiosyncrasies to discover and, if you're something of epicure as I am, splendid details to relish as they are revealed and described in eye-witness precision. Unfortunately, this book is simply a collection of journal notes and linear entires, without a clear sense of progression or arc of narrative. It has all the energy of an Audio Blog. I never knew where this "story" was going to end and could have finished after almost any chapter. More annoying is the pedantic and stilted voice of Riggenbach, the reader. I would have hoped this reader would have better researched his subject matter, but too many mispronunciations (like "no-chee" for gnocchi and "coo-liss" for coulis) undermine the attention to detail which Ruhlman gives to this culinary setting. Early in the book, Ruhlman sets up cookery as something of philosophical observation for life and finding one's way in the world. He just doesn't pay it off. I finished unsatisfied and hungry for more.
I am not a "foodie" and I'm a lousy cook, but I love cooking shows, the Food Channel, and interesting books about food and cooking. This is not an interesting book about food and cooking.
Ruhlman is a writer who went to chef school (at the Culinary Institute of America, America's premiere cooking school) to write about it, but one of his teachers told him he wasn't a real chef. This pissed Ruhlman off, so he decided to prove he could become a real chef, and he went through the whole program with as much determination as any of the other students.
This could be an interesting saga, especially written by a professional writer, but instead it reads like the journal of a cooking school student. He tells us about his classes, his teachers, his services, now and then rambles a bit about brown sauce or tells us something about one of his fellow students, and just keeps going like that all the way to the end. There are no interesting facts or surprising revelations about food or cooking school, just a very dry, matter-of-fact account of the industry. Ruhlman's writing is journalistic and without personality.
I suppose if you're thinking about going to cooking school, this is a good book to get a taste of what it's like. But compared to, for example, Trevor Corson's The Story of Sushi or one of Anthony Bourdain's books, this book was just dull.
This book could have been even better had the author cut half of it out. The book seems solely made for individuals in the restaurant biz, which I am. But I found it a little too textbook at times.
The narrator is not as terrible as others have mentioned. He is dry and offers no different character voices, but he reads it well.
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